Limousine liberal

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Limousine liberal and latte liberal are pejorative American political terms used to illustrate purported hypocritical behavior by political liberals of upper class or upper middle class status; for example, calling for the use of mass transit while frequently using privately-owned luxury transportation, especially by limousines or private jets in the case of the extremely affluent,[1] claiming environmental consciousness but driving fuel inefficient sports cars or SUVs, or ostensibly supporting public education while actually sending their children to private schools.[2]

Formation and early use[edit]

Procaccino campaign[edit]

Democratic New York City mayoral hopeful Mario Procaccino coined the term "limousine liberal" to describe incumbent Mayor John Lindsay and his wealthy Manhattan backers during a heated 1969 campaign. Historian David Callahan says that Procaccino:

conjured up an acid image of hypocritical wealthy dogooders insulated from the negative fallout of their bad ideas. This theme has remained a staple of conservative attacks ever since.[3]

It was a populist and producerist epithet, carrying an implicit accusation that the people it described were insulated from all negative consequences of their programs purported to benefit the poor, and that the costs and consequences of such programs would be borne in the main by working class or lower middle class people who were not so poor as to be beneficiaries themselves. In particular, Procaccino criticized Lindsay for favoring unemployed minorities, ex. blacks and Hispanics, over working-class white ethnics.[4]

One Procaccino campaign memo attacked "rich super-assimilated people who live on Fifth Avenue and maintain some choice mansions outside the city and have no feeling for the small middle class shopkeeper, home owner, etc. They preach the politics of confrontation and condone violent upheaval in society because they are not touched by it and are protected by their courtiers".[5] The Independent later stated that "Lindsay came across as all style and no substance, a 'limousine liberal' who knew nothing of the concerns of the same 'Silent Majority' that was carrying Richard Nixon to the White House at the very same time."[6]

Later use[edit]

In the 1970s, the term was applied to wealthy liberal supporters of open-housing and forced school busing who didn't make use of public schooling.[7] In Boston, Massachusetts, supporters of busing, such as Senator Ted Kennedy, sent their children to private schools or lived in affluent suburbs. To some South Boston residents, Kennedy's support of a plan that "integrated" their children with blacks and his apparent unwillingness to do the same with his own children, was hypocrisy.[8]

By the late 1990s and early 21st century, the term has also come to be applied to those who support environmentalist or "green" goals, such as mass transit, yet drive large SUVs or literally have a limousine and driver. Sam Dealey, writing in The Weekly Standard applied the term to Sheila Jackson-Lee for being "routinely chauffeured the one short block to work--in a government car, by a member of her staff, at the taxpayers' expense."[9] The term was also used disparagingly in a 2004 episode of Law & Order by Fred Thompson's character, Arthur Branch, to criticize the politics and beliefs of his more liberal colleague, Serena Southerlyn. South Park's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone poked fun at the tendency of some liberals to be more concerned with image than actually helping the earth in the episode "Smug Alert!"[citation needed]

The New York Observer applied the term to 2008 Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards for paying $400 for a haircut and, according to the newspaper, "lectures about poverty while living in gated opulence".[10][11]

In 2009, the term was applied by some commentators to former Senate Majority Leader and then-Obama cabinet appointee Tom Daschle for failing to pay back taxes and interest on the use of a limousine service.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Time . "Limousine Liberal Hypocrisy" by Charles Krauthammer. Published March 16, 2007.
  2. ^ NPR
  3. ^ David Callahan (2010). Fortunes of Change: The Rise of the Liberal Rich and the Remaking of America. John Wiley & Sons. p. 123.
  4. ^ The New York Times. "Mayoral Follies, The 1969 Edition " Published January 25, 1998.
  5. ^ The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York by Vincent J. Cannato, page 428.
  6. ^ The Independent. "Obituary: John Lindsay " Archived 2008-01-07 at the Wayback Machine.Written December 22, 2000 by Rupert Cornwell.
  7. ^ "A liberal interpretation: The current definition of right- and left-" Archived 2008-01-07 at the Wayback Machine by Geoffrey Nunberg. Chicago Sun-Times. Published July 30, 2006.
  8. ^ News/Features | In the later 1970's, Jimmy Carter's presidential visits to New York City's then devastated South Bronx in 1977 followed by his next year's visit to Los Angeles's Watts neighborhood's Labor Action Committee's Senior Citizens Nutrition Center in 1978, both with promises of better lives for these neighborhoods' residents was seen by at least some people as more examples of limousine liberalism as those neighborhoods got worse afterwards until the mayoral administrations of mid 1990's Republican successors, respective Rudolph Giuliani and Richard Riordan. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2007-11-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  9. ^ Dealey, Sam (11 February 2002). "Sheila Jackson Lee, Limousine Liberal". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  10. ^ Is Edwards An Easy Mark? | The New York Observer Archived 2008-01-07 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Steve Fraser (2016). The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America. Basic Books. p. 4.
  12. ^ "The Post and Courier | Charleston SC, News, Sports, Entertainment". 2013-05-16. Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  13. ^ Hart, Ron (February 8, 2009). "Future generations will pay for our mistakes". Archived from the original on February 17, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Francia, Peter L., et al. "Limousine liberals and corporate conservatives: The financial constituencies of the democratic and republican parties." Social Science Quarterly 86.4 (2005): 761-778.
  • Fraser, Steve. The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America (Basic, 2016). viii, 291 pp.
  • Stark, Andrew. "Limousine liberals, welfare conservatives: On belief, interest, and inconsistency in democratic discourse." Political Theory 25.4 (1997): 475-501.